Metascore
84

Universal acclaim - based on 29 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 29
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 29
  3. Negative: 0 out of 29
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  1. Kaurismaki is Finland's greatest filmmaker, and never has he more artfully balanced his patented blend of deadpan humor, low-key melodrama, and toe-tapping music.
  2. Reviewed by: Barbara Scharres
    100
    Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki perfects his trademark formula of deadpan humor and arctic circle pathos in this brilliantly ironic 2002 comedy.
  3. A powerful film made with minimal means, it's a story of poor people on the fringes of society, done without sentimentality or condescension but with wicked humor.
  4. The message, if there must be one, of this marvelous, stubbornly personal movie is that there is a spark in every soul.
  5. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    90
    The revered Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki has hit on a way to give you grim social realism and movie-ish sentimentality in one fell swoop.
  6. Like the great films of the 1930's and early 40's, it is at once artful and unpretentious, sophisticated and completely accessible, sure of its own authority and generous toward characters and audience alike -- a movie whose intended public is the human race.
  7. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    90
    Droll, reticent, flawlessly filmed fable of generosity.
  8. Offers up a subversive comic sensibility, one that somehow combines Buster Keaton's deadpan stare with Frank Capra's tireless optimism and filters them both through a black-ice Finnish point of view. Welcome to Aki World.
  9. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    90
    Enormously satisfying, superbly crafted.
  10. Everything has a Chaplinesque feeling, from the largely silent scenes to the highly visual, tragicomic situations...But The Man Without a Past is entirely free of the tramp's cloying sentimentality.
  11. 88
    At the end of The Man Without a Past, I felt a deep but indefinable contentment. I'd seen a comedy that found its humor in the paradoxes of existence, in the way that things may work out strangely, but they do work out.
  12. A dour-faced but sublime comedy about the kindness of strangers -- and about the strangeness of people who find themselves in oddball moments of grace.
  13. 88
    Brilliantly idiosyncratic.
  14. Kaurismaki is a master at infusing his movies with apparently contradictory qualities. The best of them -- and The Man Without a Past is surely that -- are hard to describe precisely because they seem to exist, to balance precariously, in the tension between opposites.
  15. 83
    Something in the simplicity of its vision gives The Man Without a Past a dimension of heroic grandeur -- and that effect, too, seems to tickle Kaurismaki's funny bone.
  16. Simply enjoy its witty and expertly crafted scenes, its controlled performances, its eccentric but mostly admirable characters, its succession of bleak but cozily Nordic panoramas and its surprisingly optimistic view of the world.
  17. 80
    Quietly asserts its eccentric romanticism with an assured, matter-of-fact blend of humor and pathos.
  18. 80
    It's a gentle, surprising little movie whose rewards lie in what its characters don't say as much as in what they do.
  19. Reviewed by: Rich Cline
    80
    This is a very simple story, but it builds beautifully to an endearing and witty romance.
  20. 80
    No weirder than Kaurismäki's previous efforts. Indeed, compared with “Leningrad Cowboys Go America,” this venture tells an alarmingly straight tale. [7 April 2003, p.96]
  21. Reviewed by: Andrew Mann
    80
    If Aki Kaurismaki were the Eagles, which he is not, The Man Without a Past might be considered a kind of "best of" album.
  22. 75
    The Man Without a Past is a modern fairy tale. It certainly is divorced from reality. Despite this -– or perhaps because of it -– it's a satisfying motion picture.
  23. A master of minimalism, Finland's Aki Kaurismaki makes films that are so dry, so delicately ironic that they seem on the verge of crumbling in front of us -- but they never do.
  24. 75
    The Man Without a Past has the slenderness of a folk-tale -- also the clarity and charm.
  25. A solid delight, the sort of cinematic concoction you might expect from a time-warp collaboration between Preston Sturges and Jim Jarmusch.
  26. 75
    It's a quiet little gag homage both to Boris Karloff and to the set up of shelf-loads of pulp novels and films noir. And Peltola, with his flat, serious face and damp, oil-black hair, happens to look, at times, like Richard Widmark and Kirk Douglas.
  27. 70
    This may not be Kaurismäki's masterpiece, but it is a movie of sustained stylistic integrity -- and it has the power to make you laugh.
  28. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    70
    Warm and utterly beguiling fable.
  29. I suspect that, like the Coen brothers, David Lynch, and Wes Anderson -– our American masters of idiosyncrasy -– Kaurismäki has a limited appeal. Those who get him, really get him.
User Score
8.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 21 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 8
  2. Negative: 0 out of 8
  1. EricP.
    Mar 26, 2007
    10
    A real jewel, unpretentious, no special effects but only deep human feelings from poor people on the margins who never complain of their A real jewel, unpretentious, no special effects but only deep human feelings from poor people on the margins who never complain of their fate. A tribute to humble people. Superb filming and acting. Moving. Full Review »